Nothing defines Muay Thai training like a good pad work. With a partner or neighbor, investing in a pair of the best Muay Thai pads is worth the weight in gold for home training.
In the first installment of this Home Training special, I wrote about picking the right heavy bag. Bag work is largely a solitary exercise and while it has many benefits, you must not forget that Muay Thai is an exchange between 2 martial artists.
This is why Muay Thai training features a high proportion of partner training such as sparring, clinching, and pad work.
For this second part of the home training series, let’s explore the various Muay Thai kicking pads, their uses and which ones to get.
In a hurry? Check my top 3 picks straight away: (I do recommend scrolling down to read my detailed reviews as well as other types of pads for different training purposes)
Muay Thai Pads & Padwork
Pad work is a training associated with Muay Thai and other kickboxing sports. Focus pads or mitts are the equipment of choice in traditional boxing: they are smaller and are used primarily for training punches.
Thai pads are about double in size and rectangular in shape, weighing between 1.5 to 4 kg (around 3 to 9 lbs) each. They are designed to catch all the weapons of Muay Thai including punches, elbows, knees, and kicks.
Pad-holders would also use them to work your reflexes and defense by swinging them towards you where you are meant to block or dodge.
Muay Thai pads are designed with safety and mobility in mind. The best Muay Thai pads are constructed with proper composite padding which reduce the impact on the forearms while remaining light enough for ergonomic reasons.
Padwork & Pad-Holding
Pad-holding is an art form. When a pad-holder and the fighter are in tuned, the flow is seamless and incredibly beautiful to watch.
A good pad-holder not only knows the right way to hold the pads. He is inventive, knows how to simulate the flow of an actual fight, is able to motivate and push one beyond the limits.
You’ll be surprised to learn that there are lots of mediocre pad-holders but when you meet a good one, you will know he’s THE ONE.
A good fighter doesn’t necessarily transition to being a good pad-holder. Pad-holding is a skill that doesn’t come naturally for everyone, even the champions.
Some either lack the imagination to execute a natural pad workflow, or they just lack the right attitude to want to work on being good at it. Many pad-holders make it look effortless but is actually a highly intense work.
Even though pads do absorb a bulk of the impact from the strikes, doing it with fighter after fighter, day in and day out, it is a very physically demanding job that inadvertently takes a toll on the body.
If you have been around enough camps, you will also meet many different types of bad pad-holders. My least favorite is the one-trick pony pad-holder who does the same routine every freaking session or even the same five techniques every round.
Most people have their favorite and least favorite pad-holder to work with although you don’t always have the luxury of choice. If you are going to partner up with a friend for some home training padwork, then make sure to communicate and help each other work on improving pad-holding skills.
With the right home training partner, pad work is one of the best and most fun ways to improve in Muay Thai.
Note for Beginners
Pad holding is not as easy as it looks. Before going hard at the pads especially with the kicks, it is important to learn some pad holding basics. This will help to minimize potential injuries to the arms or shoulder joints for the pad holder.
The key to safe pad-holding still boils down to proper techniques. Watch this YouTube video on how to hold pads correctly:
Benefits of Training with Muay Thai Pads
No one would be doing it if there aren’t some kind of benefits. Pad work resembles an actual fight and allows the fighter/student to throw full-power strikes which they can’t always do during sparring. Here are some of its other benefits:
If you throw each punch and kick like you mean it, pad work is the ultimate cardiovascular endurance training. 3 minutes of non-stop pad smashing can feel like an eternity.
Some Muay Thai camps (in Thailand) that cater to tourists are referred to as “Fat camps” for good reason. They do 3-5 rounds of pad work and that’s all it takes to burn a truck of calories.
Having a trainer or partner holding pads makes a huge difference as they would push you in a way that most people wouldn’t if they trained on their own.
If you have yourself a good pad-holder with lots of experience, he can help to correct your techniques on the spot as he sees it.
Little things like not driving your cross from your toes up, not blocking when you throw a roundhouse kick, generally habits that have gone formed over time unknowingly.
A good training partner or trainer can correct them there and then. Something that a heavy bag can’t do.
Besides sparring and shadow boxing, padwork is also a great way to train footwork and movement. A good pad-holder will not just stand stationary but will move around to mimic movement in the ring when fighting.
Side-stepping, dodging, feints, and other footwork can all be taught and drilled in padwork.
Best Muay Thai Pads
The most common pads used in Muay Thai (or MMA striking) training are the ubiquitous hand-held kick pads.
These are mostly rectangular in shape and designed to catch every imaginable Muay Thai weapon, as long as the pad-holder is up to it.
These pads are made by many fight brands and models may come in standard free sizes or different sizes and weights to choose from. While smaller/lighter pads are easier to hold for a longer period of time, they may not afford the same protection that comes with heavier/thicker pads which absorbs impact better.
That said, too heavy a pad and it will tire out the holder fast.
In my experience, Thai pads need a bit of time to break in and so they can feel bruising hard when they arrive fresh. A few days or a week in and they will feel perfect. Too soft a pad isn’t necessarily a good thing as the impact will transfer to the pad-holder which can be a health hazard in the long run.
At the same time, pad kicking is a good way to condition the shins so soft pads are useless in this aspect. Here are the best Muay Thai pads you should get:
|Note: Before we get into the recommendations, here’s something to take note of. Most merchants sell kick pads in a pair but there are a few that sell them as a single piece. Make sure to check before adding any kick pads to cart that you get what you are paying for.|
Fairtex Curved Kick Pads
- Safely train leg and knee strikes with ease with this light weight punch shield made of durable leather construction
- The curved design creates a tighter fit and better accepts leg strikes making this an essential tool for all styles and disciplines in your home or commercial gym
- This pair of kick pads has two forearm support straps and a reinforced riveted handle to ensure balance and stability
I am recommending Fairtex as it is the brand they use at the gym where I train and with hundreds of students coming in day after day, these have held up well.
Fairtex kick pads can be quite hard when they are fresh out of the factory, especially for beginners whose shins are not quite conditioned yet. They will soften up just right within a couple of weeks’ of smashing. So just hang in there, buddy.
These Fairtex curved pads are more comfortable to kick at and will break in faster compared to pads with flat surface.
They are padded enough to absorb impact from the hardest kicks but enough toughness for shin conditioning. Very well-constructed with strong stitching for long-lasting durability.
Fairtex training equipment are designed to meet the heavy usage requirements of commercial and fight gyms, so they are more than adequate for home training purpose.
They come in small, standard and large sizes with the standard weighing at around 3.5-4 lbs each which is a comfortable weight for most people without sacrificing protection.
|– “I would recommend these to anyone looking for a durable set of Thai pads.“|
– “I hold pads for some strong kickers and with these pads, a barely feel their kicks. “
-“airtex once again trumps all the competition in quality. These are the most comfortable and durable Thai Pads on the market – grab them, today!“
Twins Special Muay Thai Pads
- Sold as Pair. Well foam padded with leather finished for heavy training.
- Size S - 16 x 33 x 5 cm
- Size M - 18 x 38 x 5 cm
Another popular option used in authentic Muay Thai gyms all around the world.
These Twins Special pads are very well-padded pads suitable for hard kickers. Absolute beast of training gear and well-loved in Thailand gyms. They are slightly less comfortable compared to curved pads but will get the job done.
In terms of quality, these are the industry standard. They come with adjustable belt buckles for extra support for the intense extended sessions. Pad holders will appreciate these very much.
Between the Fairtex and Twins options, you won’t go wrong with either one. Nothing to complain about at all. Do check where these will be shipping from as some seller are based in Thailand.
|– “There’s a reason Twins has been number one with serious Thai boxers for the last 30 years.”|
– “Great pads. Love Twins Thai products.”
Yokkao Leather Curved Muay Thai Pads
- High Quality Leather - Non slip straps
- No sharp edges or buckles
- 7 pre-curved foam system disperses the shock of kicks more evenly making it easier to absorb kicks
If you want a pair of Muay Thai pads that look as good as they function, then Yokkao is always a dependable choice.
Yokkao is a Bangkok-based Muay Thai brand that has been around since 2010. The reason their gear stand out in terms of aesthetic is because they have an in-house design team in Italy. This lends a fashion sensibility to their products like no other combat sports brand.
Quality-wise, the main Yokkao manufacturing facility is located in Bangkok where they work with local crafts makers with many decades of experience. These are some of the best Muay Thai pads made with locally-sourced cow or buffalo leather.
I have trained with these pads and I would rate them as equal to both Fairtex and Twins Special. Yokkao is a premium brand and these Thai pads are more pricey but you do get what you pay for.
If you can afford these, they are well worth the investment.
RDX Muay Thai Pad
- This Thai Pad is lined with IMT gel foam padding which makes them almost invincible, allowing your trainee to dish out some major force with full conviction. The gel lining protection is exclusively...
- Our strike pad features a handle manufactured with shredded textile material for solid grip. The handle fits securely onto the forearms of the pad holder and allows for any easy on/off application....
- This Muay Thai kicking pad is contrived with resilient triple reinforced stitching along the seams that ensure it lasts the test of times. It further enhances strength and durability while enduring...
RDX is usually a dependable fight gear brand and a regular entry on many of my recommendation lists. However, it is here for a different reason this time.
I figure I would include this on the list as this is one of those merchants that sell kick pads as a single piece. Muay Thai pads are always used in a pair so it is quite odd that RDX is selling them separately.
A number of reviewers ended up having to make a second order when their purchase showed up at their door as a single pad. RDX has since edited their listing title to indicate that they are selling a single piece.
At around $50 a pad, this works out to be $100 for a pair which is about the same as the Fairtex kick pads. This is not a big deal except that RDX pads are not real leather but “Maya hide leather” which is synthetic.
These are smaller than your usual pads that you find in a standard Muay Thai gym. Like most of the budget kick pads, these are more suitable for beginners or young children.
|– “These pads don’t protect much at all against hard kickers and hitters. It’s more for beginners.”|
– “At first I thought this was a set of two, but after reading the other reviews I found that you were only buying one.”
Sanabul Battle Forged Muay Thai Pads
- Battle Tested: When you’re serious about your training, you’re serious about your gear. The Battle Forged Series is our answer to athletes who demand tougher material. We gave it a cast iron style...
- Tested By Pro's, Created For You: We challenge our Team Sanabul athletes, like UFC Champion Michael Bisping, to put our gear through their toughest training sessions. We know it’ll hold up for you,...
- Ultra Light: Even seemingly light pads can become heavy when you’re taking hundreds of punches, kicks, and elbows. We developed San-Air Ultra Light foam to set the new standard for trainers. Each...
Sanabul has been one of my most recommended budget options in the past year for training gear and equipment. Their Battle Forged collection is now complete with these Muay Thai kick pads.
These are made using engineered leather which is a mixture of real leather (scrap leather) and synthetic leather.
In terms of construction, the Sanabul stays faithful to the high standards of Muay Thai pads with two hook-n-loop straps and a handle on each pad. This design provides the best support and stay secured even during intense training.
These kick pads are lighter (less dense foam padding) and a little smaller compared to standard Muay Thai pads. So while they minimize fatigue for pad-holders, the impact absorption is not comparable to those that I recommend above.
The Battle Forged collection sports a minimalist and sophisticated look, perfect for gyms or homes alike. Finally, price-wise, these Muay Thai pads offer good value for lightweight beginner or kids training.
I also recommend sticking to the black or brown pads because the white leather is going to get very dirty in little time.
|– “These pads are very light. Makes for fast padwork but a hard teep or roundhouse (I’m a heavyweight) will sting a little.”|
– “These feel a bit lighter than what I’m used to but they are well built and take a beating. I think the foam is slightly less dense than in more expensive pads.”
Contender Fight Sports Muay Thai Pads
- Safely train leg and knee strikes with ease with this highly rated pair of MMA Thai Pads
- Punch and kick fight shields complete with two hook and loop straps to securely fasten to coach or training partner with riveted handle to ensure stability
- Made of durable and easy to clean vinyl construction built to uphold against hard hits in your home or commercial gym
This is another budget option for the price-conscious fighters.
Contender Fight Sports has been around for a while with good-quality gear/equipment at decent prices. These Muay Thai kick pads are no exception.
They feature very durable dense foam padding for good impact absorption to keep the holders protected. The trade-off is the weight but they weigh about the same as traditional Thai pads.
The classic no-frills design is made using vinyl which gives off a strong smell although this goes away after a few weeks of usage. If the smell bothers you, just air them out until the smell goes away.
For its price, the Contender kick pads offer better value compared to the Sanabul in terms of durability and protection. This is definitely the one to get if you are looking to get some heavy usage with hard kickers.
|– “They can take heavy hits and the cushioning is pretty padded.”|
– “We kick the crap out of these things and they seem to have a lot of longevity.”
Elite Sports Muay Thai Kickboxing Pads
- ✅ DURABLE: Quad-layer Muay Thai kick pads are made from durable ultra-lightweight Nylex Leather having stylish sublimated graphics and Curved design thus they are easy to maintain and clean. These...
- ✅ MAXIMUM COMFORT - Adjustable two hook & loop straps of Kickboxing Strike Shield allow you to achieve an ideal fit while with the handle and grips you can hold this kicking shield sturdy and in...
- ✅ SHOCK ABSORBTION: Our martial arts kicking pads have multi-layered gel integrated foam padding interior absorb huge blows designed for heavy hitters it is great knee and elbow target shield. The...
Here is one more budget option to add to the list.
Elite Sports is a maker of a wide range of combat sports training gear and equipment catering to those who are more price-sensitive. Based on my past experience with their products, it’s a decent option to turn to for all of your training needs.
First off, these kick pads are made using “Nylex leather” which is essentially synthetic leather. Real animal leather have a longer lifespan, generally speaking. Synthetic leather tends to be less durable but
Now the plus points: Elite Sports pads are light and firm without being too hard. This makes them suitable for young children or beginners but note that it still needs a few sessions of breaking in. Their lightweight construction also makes them easier to hold and maneuver around.
They are affordable and dependable for general home training but if you are a powerful kicker or partnering with one, it is worth investing in a higher quality pair. (See Fairtex or Twins above)
|– “You cannot beat the quality for the price.”|
– “The size stood out to me first. Light and compact. I can easily get these in my bags.”
|Other Types of Pads Used in Muay Thai|
The brick-like rectangular pads that we see above come to mind when we talk about Muay Thai pads. There are actually a few more types of pads used in Muay Thai training.
These are equipment normally used or worn by trainers for a more comprehensive training (belly pad, thigh pad) or simply to mix things a bit (low kick pad).
For training at home with a partner or for personal trainers offering kickboxing training, the standard kick pads may suffice. But with the add-ons are worth considering if you are looking for serious home training.
Low Kick Pads
- Improved design with no sharp edges or angles.
- Traditional Thai Suitcase style kick pad, Great product for leg and cut kicks, foot jabs, knees and even body punches.
- Shock absorbing multi-layered foam padding in durable synthetic shell, All leather handles, designed for heavy hitters, Flat Design with two handles.
If you low-kick it like you mean it, these pads can give you a workout like no other.
Unlike banana heavy bags which can be hard as concrete at times, low kick pads are a lot more forgiving. Coupled with a larger area than standard kick pads and this gives you the full consent to go as hard as you can.
These square pads are not limited to just low kicking. Hold them up and they are good for medium kicks; hold them in front they function as a good pad to work those power teeps.
The downside to these is that they are essentially designed to train low kicks as compared to standard pads which are more all-rounded.
- This body protector is handmade in Thailand with durable leather construction and a multi-layered foam padding system for extra protection
- Prioritize you safety with this boxing, MMA, Muay Thai, contact sport training kick shield rib guard for athletes and coaches
- Fairtex training belly pad offers complete core protection when coaching and teaching the portfolio of kicks
Belly pads are worn by pad-holders to allow teeps (push kicks), stomach/body punches and especially to catch the knees. They are sometimes worn for clinching practice to allow the throwing of knees without restraint.
They are a standard operating equipment for trainers and you will not see a pad-holder without one in any decent Muay Thai camp.
Thigh pads are more realistic for low kick training when you compare it to the low kick pads. As the name suggests, they are worn on thighs and are designed to be subjected to low kicks.
In reality, they are bulky but are not that useful against powerful low kickers. For the price that it is commanding, it’s not really worth it for such inadequate protection.
Fairtex offers a more compact thigh pad (above) which I imagine would be more comfortable to wear but wouldn’t necessary provide better protection. Might just be better to work with the low kick pads instead.
How to clean Muay Thai Pads
As with all Muay Thai equipment, sweat and traces of blood can stain the pad work, breeding nasty bacteria that can give you plenty of dermatological troubles such as staph infection.
The pads are most likely going to be shared among at least 2 pairs of legs and more so it is both wise and polite to keep them sanitary.
Wiping the pads after training using a damp cloth and mild soap solution (disinfectant spray) to remove sweat and grime, then again with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture will help to keep it sanitized.
The nice part is that being more portable -compared to heavy bags- which means that they can be put out in the sun for a good dose of mother nature’s mold-killing UV rays.
Do take note to not leave them in the sun for too long as it can cause discoloration and cracking.
Regular maintenance helps to prolong the lifespan of the bag by preventing mold and reducing bacteria growth.
There you have it. No Muay Thai training is imaginable or complete without pad work. If you are working around a budget and have someone to train with, ditch the heavy bag and get yourself a pair of Thai kick pads.
For all self-respecting personal trainers offering Thai style kickboxing training, Thai pads are mandatory. Clients aren’t paying for shadow boxing cardio they can do in aerobics class. We want a few rounds of pad work for an intensive workout.
Verdict: Pad work >> Bag work. Happy smashing!